Max Verstappen resisted the pressure from a charging Lewis Hamilton to take victory at the Circuit of the Americas, as the teams went different on race strategy after Hamilton took the lead on the opening lap.
Red Bull had to use an undercut pit strategy to get Verstappen back in front, which meant Mercedes later left Hamilton out longer to set up an attempt at sealing a last-gasp victory.
At the start, Verstappen and Hamilton got away from the starting grid together but the Mercedes accelerated much better and the pair were almost immediately side by side as the began to climb the hill to the Turn 1 left-hand hairpin.
Verstappen squeezed Hamilton over the pitlane exit line to the inside edge of the track, but the defending world champion had the line and was able to steal ahead at the Turn 1 apex.
The Red Bull Racing driver hung over around the outside line but was shown to the edge of the track in turn by Hamilton, who raced clear into the lead as Perez surged alongside Verstappen, who had to rejoin from off the track.
Perez conceded ground his teammate into the Turn 3 left that starts the Esses complex in the first sector as the pack charged after the leaders, only Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi adrift at the back after making contact at Turn 1 with the Aston Martin driver spun around in front of the Williams.
The top three immediately pulled clear of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari in fourth, the trio able to run in the high one minute, 41 seconds while the rest were at least a second slower in the early tours of the 56-lap race.
Hamilton and Verstappen also edged clear of Perez, with the leader holding a lead of just under a second throughout the opening ten laps, during which Verstappen insisted to Red Bull that he had pace in hand and that Hamilton was “sliding a lot”.
Hamilton confirmed to Mercedes that his rival was indeed quicker, but, as the pair pulled further clear of Perez who was dropped back to the one minute, 42 seconds, he continued to hold the advantage.
On lap 10, Verstappen told Red Bull he suddenly found himself sliding more and not going as fast as he had been before and at the end of the tour, he was brought in to switch the mediums all the leaders had started on for hards.
Verstappen carved his way by the yet-to-stop Daniel Ricciardo, running behind Leclerc, on his out lap, with Mercedes opting not to bring Hamilton in immediately to cover his rival.
With Verstappen lighting up the timing screens with a string of fastest laps, the Dutchman urged Red Bull to use Perez’s strategy aggressively with a second undercut to stop Mercedes leaving him out for a long first stint.
When Red Bull did just that by pitting Perez for a second set of mediums at the end of lap 12, Hamilton was indeed called in at the end of the following tour, with Verstappen moving back into the lead easily when the Mercedes re-joined.
Verstappen therefore found himself with a six second lead that he maintained over the next phase of the race – the leaders now running in the high one minute, 40 seconds – with Perez ten seconds behind in third.
Just past the 20-lap mark, Hamilton began to turn the screw as he upped his pace to reach the low one minute, 40 seconds, which quickly ate into Verstappen’s advantage.
The Red Bull’s lead was soon under three seconds as Hamilton’s three-lap tyre life off-set advantage began to pay off, as Verstappen even slipped back to the 1m41s as he made his way through backmarker traffic.
But Verstappen was able to respond, gaining back a chunk just before the virtual safety car was briefly activated so a piece of debris could be retrieved by a marshal at the entry to Turn 16, the multi-corner complex leading to the track’s final corners.
Red Bull then went aggressive again with Verstappen’s strategy, calling him in for a second set of hards at the end of lap 29, with Mercedes immediately telling Hamilton he would be running long in response – Perez now far from a threat behind.
Hamilton was left out for an extra eight laps after Verstappen came in for a second time, with Mercedes setting up a significant second tyre life advantage for the end of the race.
When Hamilton exited the pits at the start of lap 38, he had an 8.7 seconds gap to close over 18 laps and during the early phase of that chase he made small gains on his rival, but then upped his pace to reach the one minute, 38 seconds as Verstappen struggled to lap traffic, with the gap rapidly coming down to 4.8 seconds at the end of lap 42.
Once the pair had both cleared the traffic, with Hamilton seemingly held up less, Verstappen’s lead continued to fall, albeit back to a steadier rate, with his team telling him to make sure he had enough tyre life left to defend against Hamilton coming into DRS zones late in the race.
At the lap 50 point, Verstappen’s lead was under two seconds for the first time, but Hamilton’s gains were getting smaller again as he arrived at the Red Bull’s wake.
The gap stabilised for a brief time before Hamilton closed further in with three laps to go – Verstappen’s lead barely a second and with Mick Schumacher’s Haas suddenly a factor as he came to be lapped for a second time.
But although Hamilton was just 0.8 seconds behind at the start of the final tour, Verstappen had DRS down the pit straight as he had been with the detection zone following the Haas at the end of the penultimate lap.
That helped Verstappen pull clear just enough to never let Hamilton had a DRS activation or make a move in battle, with the Red Bull coming him to win by 1.3 seconds.
Perez finished 42.2 seconds behind Verstappen, with Leclerc only ten seconds adrift of the second Red Bull by the finish.
Fifth position went to Ricciardo after he clashed with the Carlos Sainz late in the race – the pair and Lando Norris also engaging in a thrilling fight on the first lap, while Sainz dropped behind Valtteri Bottas late on.
Norris took eighth behind his former teammate, with Yuki Tsunoda, who defied Bottas for several laps mid-way through the race with a series of bold defensive moves, taking ninth.
Sebastian Vettel rose from his rear-of-the-field start, thanks to his pre-event engine change, and the Aston driver claimed the final point after his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen spun out of tenth place with a dramatic spin at the long and bumpy Turn 6 right with three laps to the end.
Alpine retired both cars – Esteban Ocon with an unspecified problem at the rear of his car, and later Fernando Alonso after his rear wing “broke up”.
Pierre Gasly was the first retirement when his AlphaTauri’s rear suspension was damaged on lap 12.
So a tense and exciting race at the United States Grand Prix with Max Verstappen resisting the pressure from rival Lewis Hamilton to take victory. The championship fight has been epic and will continue as there is five races to go. Mexico is next.
United States Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:34:36.552
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.333
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda +42.223
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +52.246s
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +76.854s
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +80.128s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +83.545s
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +84.395s
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
14 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
15 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
– Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault DNF
– Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF